Fur Fighters is the PC port of a game released for the Dreamcast console earlier this year. It's a cutesy third-person shooter that pits a band of heroic stuffed animals against the villainous General Viggo and his army of Stupid Bears. While the game has its merits, it really doesn't have the firepower necessary to make an impact in the PC shooter market.
The game begins with General Viggo - who appears to be a cougar or some similar creature - kidnapping all of the babies from a small village. This village is the home of the Fur Fighters, a small group of stuffed animals that apparently have military training. Viggo plans to take over the world, and he doesn't want the Fur Fighters interfering, so he hopes to keep the babies hostage to force the Fur Fighters to stand down until his plans for global domination are realized. It wouldn't be much of a game if his scheme worked, so you take control of a Fur Fighter and begin the two-pronged quest: Save the babies, and defeat General Viggo.
The Fur Fighters team includes six members: Roofs the dog, Chang the fox, Juliette the cat, Rico the penguin, Bungalow the dim-witted kangaroo, and Tweek the dragon. Under the supervision of General Bristol the walrus, you must guide all of these creatures during the course of the game. Much like in the console game Donkey Kong 64, certain areas of Fur Fighters are only accessible by certain members of the team. So when you need to reach a particularly high place, you'll rely on Bungalow's jumping skill. Or when you need to swim underwater you'll rely on Rico. At key points in the game's 30 levels, teleporters let you switch the team member you control. Each teleporter is set up for a specific character, so if you enter an area where you need Juliette's climbing ability, a teleporter for her will be somewhere nearby.
The gameplay itself is a cross between a typical shooter and a platform game. You'll run into plenty of enemies to shoot, and you have access to more than 20 weapons with which to shoot them. However, most of the time, instead of just fighting you'll be picking up power-ups and tokens that help unlock additional levels of the game. Having to go out of your way to open later levels becomes fairly tedious early on, especially when you have to follow an otherwise silly path - such as going through countless levels of a fire escape - to track down some tokens. Of course, you'll also be spending your time trying to find the missing babies, which can only be rescued by the team member that matches their species. So when you stumble across a puppy, you need to control Roofus to free the little tyke.
The combat is not particularly difficult in Fur Fighters, so long as you know how to strafe. The enemies will dodge a rocket every once in a while and roll out of the way, but overall the enemies are not very crafty. Veterans of shooters will have little difficulty mowing down the meddlesome bears while searching for babies and tokens.
The most impressive aspect of Fur Fighters is also one of its downfalls: the level design. The maps for each level are nicely arranged and quite creative. The use of multiple floors, secret areas, and scripted cinematic events is quite effective throughout the game. Unfortunately, the colors and textures used in most areas range from garish to just plain ugly. Some subtle effects are well done, such as the water in the beginning village and the snowfall in New Quack City, but the overall look of the game is not likely to impress you.
Nor is the multiplayer mode, despite its support for up to 16 players. Fur Fighters can be played over a LAN or the Internet (via GameSpy Arcade or direct links) but offers nothing particularly new or exciting in terms of multiplayer gameplay, which was much more noteworthy on the Dreamcast.
Other problems with the game include its annoying use of gibberish in place of what should be actual dialogue exchanged during the in-game cinematics. Instead of real voice-overs, you'll be subjected to strings of silly noises that are presumably supposed to be humorous. They might seem that way at first, but the charm will probably wear off before the opening movie is finished.
Fur Fighters is a harmless, uninspired addition to the many PC action games released this year. The game can often be humorous, especially if you pay attention to the details in the scenery and the minigames you'll occasionally come across - but it still isn't especially exciting. And considering its tough competition in the genre, these sorts of details won't be enough to win over too many players.